The incident occurred near Asarali on Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border.
Additional Superintendent of Police Rahul Shrirame said 35-year-old Shrirange was dragged out of his house by a group of Naxals and taken into the forest where he was shot dead. “We don’t yet know the exact reason, but Shrirange was a petty contractor and there could have been some dispute over money,” he told The Indian Express.
This was the 24th civilian killing by Naxals in Gadchiroli this year. It is learnt that Srirange worked for MLA Deepak Atram.
The naxalites have advanced the observance of PLGA week this year by about seven days to remember senior leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, who was killed in police action in West Bengal on November 24 last year.
An advisory has been issued by the Centre that naxalites are likely to carry out an attack during the period.
Top sources said, “The police have issued instruction to civilian authorities not to move out in the district as naxals may carry out abductions.”
DIG (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam, however, told The Indian Express that no such instruction had been issued.
He added, “We have stepped up our operations and will ensure that peace prevails.”
Over the past one year, naxalites have been crippled in Gadchiroli for reasons such as lack of recruitment, surrender, death of senior cadres and maked improvement in police movement.
“We are now moving in groups of 80-100. The naxals’ dalam strengths have gone down due to surrenders and lack of recruitment. Their own internal assessment shows this as we understand from some of the documents seized recently,” sources said.
Company dalams, the biggest naxal forces, are operating with depleted strengths of about 38-42 as against their normal strength of 55-60.
Two very senior cadres — south Gadchiroli divisional secretary and member of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee Chandranna alias Shekhar and wife Vijaya, who was also member of the divisional committee — surrendered before Andhra Pradesh police a few days ago, dealing a severe blow to the party organisation.
Many dalam commanders had earlier surrendered in Gadchiroli and bordering Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh.
More surrenders, all of them senior cadres, are stated to be in the offing in Gadchiroli soon, sources said. Sources, however, added: “The Naxals are set to augment presence in Gadchiroli with forces borrowed from Chhattisgarh. They are already active in Bhamragarh, Etapalli and Sironcha tehsils and are carrying out regular meetings in Dechhlipetha, Damrancha and Jambia-Gatta areas, very close to the police outposts there.”